John Gilbert Biography by Eve Golden
I’ve often said that reading about the stars that made old Hollywood so magical is as much of a joy for me as watching their films. This particular book (John Gilbert: The Last of the Silent Film Stars by Eve Golden, Amazon link) reminded me of this very truth. The book was absolutely fascinating – as in every single page – and gave me what felt like a complete college education in John Gilbert as well as Silent Films.. with a minor in Greta Garbo!
Before I get back to the wonderful and colorful John Gilbert, I want to say that Greta Garbo serves as the perfect point for another thing I love about old Hollywood biographies. When a great author (which is precisely what Eve Golden is) researches and writes about a particular star, they also shine a fresh light on other stars within their star’s galaxy. The wonderful thing is, we often get a new look (a fresh angle, if you will) at the star in question – often a different one from, say their own biographies or memoirs.
The Greta Garbo I met in this particular biography makes her even more intriguing and lovable to me. Was she perfect? No… but she was perfectly delightful in many ways and Eve Golden fleshed her out beautifully.
I only wish she’d write a Greta Garbo biography!
The relationship between the two stars is one of the most fascinating things about this book. Suffice to say, Greta Garbo turned our hero inside out!
(Review continued below….)
Greta Garbo and John Gilbert in Queen Christina
One of the things I always mention in my biography reviews is that I refuse to give too much away – it isn’t fair to the author OR you. I want you to be able to come across great information, quotes, and delicious surprises just as I was able to.
I very much want you to have the same, “Holy cats! I didn’t know that!” moment… whether or not you actually use the phrase holy cats or not.
John Gilbert was one of the world’s most recognizable and beloved actors during the silent era. He had a couple of famous romances with Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich and seemed to have a tendency to fall for his leading ladies!
He was a very colorful individual who, like most people, had personal demons he had to keep at bay – sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much. He was known for flareups with Louis B. Mayer (Gilbert got as deeply under Mayer’s skin as Garbo did his own, with equally unsettling results). He turned to alcohol as a means of both entertainment and escape and it wasn’t as fond of him as he was it.
Before reading John Gilbert: The Last of the Silent Film Stars (Amazon link), I knew very little about John Gilbert. I knew he was a wonderful actor and meant a great deal to silent films. I knew he had been in love with Greta Garbo and had been linked to Marlene Dietrich and a few other co-stars. I also knew he had a drinking problem (which I’m sure he’d reply with, “Actually, I didn’t have any problem drinking at all!”). I also knew that, once talkies came onto the scene, John Gilbert was one of the stars who faded away, unfortunately.
I’d always believed the old tale that his voice wasn’t suitable for talkies… I am so relieved that this actually wasn’t the case. We all want our heroes to have nice voices, after all.
Author Eve Golden allows us to meet John (“Jack”) Gilbert as a youth and journey with him to Hollywood. We are allowed to meet other colorful stars along the way and, remarkably, in spite of reading so many biographies on each one – Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, Norma Shearer, Mae Murray – Even Golden somehow gives readers a fresh, wonderful look at each star.
I truly have EVEN more fondness for Greta, Norma, and Joan than I did before.
I also enjoy the behind the scenes looks at each of John Gilbert’s films – what he thought of many, how he interacted with various directors and co-stars, etc.
This is a fascinating book about a fascinating actor. Just be warned, you’ll want to see every film he made after this biography!
This is the fifth Eve Golden book I’ve read so far (all wonderful old Hollywood biographies), and it is my favorite. While I love them all, there’s something extraordinary about this book. Unless I miss my guess, John Gilbert is a star who holds a great deal of fascination for the author and it comes through on each and every page.
I was sent this excellent book from The University Press of Kentucky in exchange for telling you about it. The review, the words, and all the rest was left up to me. I hope you’ll read John Gilbert: The Last of the Silent Film Stars (Amazon link) very soon – I am so anxious for more people to “meet” this colorful, complex, and deliciously entertaining actor! ~ Joi (“Joy”)
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